When foster care parents become discouraged with raising a foster care child it is frequently due to behavioral problems. An adolescent who has experienced a history of maltreatment is most likely to have such difficult behavior problems that lead to the disruption of placement. Many parents have a difficult time dealing with behavioral problems from a teen who has grown up in a healthy, loving environment, much less a teenager who is likely to have built up anger due to a past of neglect, physical abuse, or even sexual abuse. Age has been found to be the number one factor in predicting foster or adoption disruption; “the older the child, the greater the risk of disruption” (Brodzinsky et al. 1998). A study by Kadushin and Martin (1998) found that the disruption rate of older child placements was more than five times greater than the disruption rate for families who adopted infants. Families looking to adopt or take in a foster care child tend to want infants and younger children, which puts older children in the “special needs” category since they are much harder to place in to a home. Families who are willing to take in older foster care children will have many obstacles and stressors to overcome when trying to establish a healthy relationship and environment with the foster care child. Emotional and behavior problems are reported in a large majority of cases of foster care adolescents (Barth and Barry 1998), which make for a difficult transition into a new family setting. Behaviors such as aggression, antisocial acts (e.g., stealing, vandalizing, injuring others), sexual acting out, and suicidality are especially predictive of placement instability (Brodzinsky et al., 1998).
Pinderhughes (1996) offers a model that predicts stages families go through who adopt an older child. Her stages have been found to be valuable to the adaptive family since they normalize the challenges and frequent upheavals that many families experience when adopting a child with special needs. Her stages include anticipation, accommodation, resistance, and finally restabilization.